Bronxites can now walk high above the Harlem River on the recently reopened High Bridge.
Completed in 1848, the oldest standing bridge in the city bridge was the final link in the Old Croton Aqueduct that brought freshwater to New York City.
The bridge also acted as a pedestrian walkway between then-rural northern Manhattan and the Bronx.
The aqueduct was decommissioned in 1958, and the walkway closed several years later.
But everything is old is new again, and the High Bridge officially reopened to fanfare on Tuesday, June 9, the result of a $61.8 million project to restore the bridge.
“It remains an engineering marvel to this very day,” NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said about the bridge.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony, city agencies, elected officials and community-based organizations celebrated the history of the bridge.
“This bridge right here helped to foster in modern day New York,” said Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr about the former aqueduct.
But the High Bridge’s walkway also functioned as a promenade on weekends, as well as an important transportation link between family and friends on both sides of the Harlem River.
“It was more than an aqueduct, it was the center of the community’s social world,” said Silver.
That reestablished connection between the boroughs was also celebrated on Tuesday.
“I can’t think of a better symbol of community and solidarity,” said Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer.
The project represents a partnership among the two boroughs, the parks department and NYC Department of Design and Construction, numerous elected officials including Congressman Jose E. Serrano, who earmarked the first $5 million for the project as a state senator, and groups including Partnership for Parks and the High Bridge Coalition, among many others.
The Harlem River Working Group supported the project as part of an effort to expand access to the Harlem River waterfront, in the process creating safe routes for people to get around and explore the city on bike or on foot, said group leader and Highbridge resident Chauncey Young.
“It’s hard to put into words how important this is,” he said.
The bridge will offer neighbors direct access to High Bridge Park in Manhattan, with its playgrounds, walking and bike paths, baseball fields and basketball courts, and recreation center and pool.
Highbridge resident Sahiem Baines is excited to have easier access to the park, which he uses with his friends in the summer.
Now instead of walking up to the 181st Street Bridge, the High Bridge’s entrance at University Avenue and West 170th Street is just blocks from his home.
Baines has been waiting for the opening of the High Bridge since 2006, when his middle school class attended a ceremony announcing the project.
He’s been looking forward to it ever since, especially after hearing stories from family members who remember when the High Bridge was last open.
“I always wanted to know what the view would be like from the bridge,” said Baines. “I wanted to experience that too.”
The High Bridge is open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. during warmer months. The High Bridge Festival will be held on July 25 from noon to 4 p.m.
©2015 Community News Group